Even the hardest hearts of the most jaded music lovers would be melting…
Returning to Bristol less than six months after their triumphant show at the Thekla, Canadian guitar-pop quintet Alvvays are fast on the rise to indie stardom based on this showing. Their self-titled debut was one of my picks of 2014, and having attended the Thekla gig back in January, I was intrigued to see how they have progressed since that frosty night.
Suffice to say the intense touring schedule they’ve undertaken since then is clearly paying dividends. Tonight, in a jam-packed Fleece, they’re tight and together in a way that only a band with a growing sense of self-confidence in their own abilities and song craft can be – and one thing Alvvays are definitely not short of is great songs. ‘Archie, Marry Me’ is surely one of the choicest pop nuggets to have emerged from the indie scene for many a year; an adrenaline shot to the arm with a chorus to make you swoon, and sing-along to. Like many Alvvays songs it is made up of seemingly simple but always complimentary contributions from each member, including some lovely guitar interplay and stop/start set-piece moments. The result is a serotonin inducing gem of a song, which endures long past its three minute lifespan.
Yet tonight proves that Alvvays are no one-trick ponies. ‘Ones Who Love You’ takes a different approach, with a slow build, introducing the various melodic themes gradually before the eventual, inevitable release of the soaring final chorus. Its heartening to see that even the less immediate, but no less worthy, songs receive such a full-throated welcome from the Fleece attendees.
Debuting a few new tracks peppered throughout a set mined largely from the aforementioned debut, this band have hooks to spare. Alvvays’ songs are constructed of perfectly layered elements, guaranteed to get to work on those pleasure receptors, from keyboardist Kerri MacLellan’s cheap sounding synth drones to guitarist Alec’s sepia-toned bittersweet melodies. In fact Alec O’Hanley could be their secret weapon, unleashing peals of tumbling notes that occasionally bring to mind distant church bells, like something recollected from a particularly vivid daydream.
There is a hazy, punch-drunk feel to Alvvays sound, and tonight the Fleece feels especially loved up for this endearing group. Add to the mix a solid but unshowy rhythm section and the distinctive ‘pure as driven snow’ tones of singer/guitarist Molly Rankin and you have a wonderfully evocative concoction, part 80’s British indie jangle, part 90’s U.S. lo-fi and post-grunge.
Alvvays certainly win the capacity crowd over, although judging from the rapturous reception to songs such as ‘Atop A Cake’ and the cautionary tale of tragic teen love that is ‘Next Of Kin’, much of the audience didn’t need convincing of their already impressive indie chops. As Molly woops in joy a la Bernard Sumner back in the day, even the hardest hearts of the most jaded music lovers would be melting. Frankly, I had a Cheshire Cat sized grin on my face throughout, and that’s more than enough for me.
Check out ‘Archie, Marry Me’ right here: